Decorative Metal Finishes

Nancy LT Hamilton

Created April 2021

Edited last:  10/3/22

Hello and Welcome!

If you don’t see the page you’re looking for, try this link.  

Follows, are just a few of the many tools and techniques that will help you to create pattern, texture, and depth on metal.

Further down the page, you will encounter technique videos and (IMHO) essential books that will help you to transform your art into something truly unique!

Have fun and, by all means, experiment away! Thanks for stopping by. Nancy


Images of Textures and Tools

Burs and Bits

  Ball burs, Krause, etc.:  Ball burs Amazon, Krause burs Amazon, Bur set Amazon. Search burs and bits Otto Frei, Contenti, FDJ Tools, and Rio Grande among others.  

   Always lubricate your steel burs and bits.  It extends the life of the tool.  Also, don’t “floor-it”  with your flex shaft pedal.  High speeds can overheat the steel causing it to become annealed and lose its sharp edges a whole heck of a lot faster!  My new favorite lubrication is PepeTools Blade Butter – it’s more of a gel.  Liquid lubricant, while fabulous, has been known to slip into saw frame locking keys and also down the flex shafts mouth causing issues with blades and tools slipping.  The solid lubricant, also fabulous, is flaky and makes a bit of a mess.  I still use it for jump ring making though.  See my video on Making the Most of Your Jump Ring Maker, below.


This was created using diamond bits in a flex shaft. I just doodled away… Steel burs will make similar lines. You can hold them sideways or more like a pencil. Whatever works for you. 

Diamond discs, burs, and bitsAmazon diamond bits. Amazon diamond discs. Amazon bits and disc kits

Chasing & Repoussé Tools, Punches

  Chasing tools/Punches. Make your own (see my video below) or purchase through Amazon, Metalsmithing Tools,  2Moontools on Etsy, the Mettleworks.  Use with a chasing hammer or another hammer that you don’t care if the face gets marred from the steel.


  Smashing the metal on the sidewalk with my rawhide mallet.  I switched between hammering on both sides and hammering on one side. Pebbly, cracked sidewalks work great.


  Corrugation  – This is such a simple process – until you get into the fancier patterns.  The corrugator is simply a tube squeezer but, heavy-duty enough to roll through 26 – 30 gauge annealed copper and fine silver.  Harder metals may require a thinner gauge. Amazon for the tool. There is a larger, pricier version called a Microfold Brake at Rio Grande.


(Torch-fired flowers).   Enamel – torch or kiln fired.  Thompson Enamels


  Engraving – GraversGRS on AmazonLion Punch Forge’s Engraving Adapter for the hammer handpiece at PepeTools.

  Electric engraver.  Use it like a pencil and draw on your metal. I recommend sketching out your design first but, there is a lot to be said for just doodling! Amazon.


(Sharpie repeatedly applied to copper).

  Etching – Beeswax can be used as a resist (ground), Industrial Sharpie, Oil-based paint pens, sticky-backed vinyl (for use with a vinyl cutter like the Cricut or the Silhouette, or craft punches), nail polish – tons of stuff.  Beeswax on Amazon.   Etching ground – Note:  Traditional grounds contain arsenic, lead, and mercury.  Ball Ground, Soft for impression, and other techniques.  There are a few non-toxic alternatives.  Takachpress sells the non-toxic version called B.I.G Etching Ground by Baldwin.  BUT, Jackson’s in London sells a 120ML size (compared to Takachpress’ at 75ML) for 16.51 US.  With shipping, it was only 25.22.  Takachpress sells their 75ML size for 42.00 – not including shipping costs.  So, you get a ton more for a bunch less if you buy it from Jackson’s.  The ground comes in black or red – up to you.  You’ll need a brayer and a piece of glass to ink up the brayer.  The ink is applied via the brayer to your metal. Watch this video to learn how to apply and harden the B.I.G. Etching Ground.      Brayers for etching ground.  Takachpress sells them for $196.00 and up.  I’m sure that they are professional grade but you can purchase brayers on Amazon for $10.00.    For applying ground, these should be good enough – although, I have not tried them yet.  


  Files, various sizes, grits, and cuts.  Amazon. Also found at jewelry and metalsmithing suppliers.

Fire Finishes



(Broom casting) (Water casting)

Casting – broom, cuttlefish, water, rock salt, and sand for example.  There are many examples on YouTube.

Fire painting

  Various torches. Butane, oxygen/propane, oxygen/acetylene, natural gas, air/propane, air/acetylene, etc.  Amazon butane torches. Smith Silversmith Torch, Smith Little Torch.


Fusing Dust. Fuse fine silver, sterling silver, Argentium silver, and gold dust, or scrap to silver, copper, brass, steel, or bronze sheet. I cannot find anyone who sells silver dust/filings/flakes and I looked for hours.  Keep your sweeps (dust) when you saw or file, then run a magnet through it to remove any steel particles left by your tools. Use clean metal for fusing.  Be sure to keep your metals separate when filing or sawing.  Sweep your bench and bench pin well and clean out your files between metals. Collect and store your filings in a plastic bag or envelope. Heat from the backside when fusing. You can apply it in layers. See my video Soldering and Fusing Silver (below) for a brief overview of the process.

Fusing Scrap. Have a little scrap silver? Fuse it with silver, copper, brass, or bronze for some interesting textures. Heat it from underneath for best results. I also cover this process in the Soldering and Fusing Silver video (above).

Fusing gold, plating.

See my video on fusing gold.  


Aura 22 – Rio Grande. Accent Gold for Silver – Cool Tools:   Art Clay Gold PastePepeTools Digital Pen Plating Station.    

  Keum Boo.  (Similar to fusing and plating). There’s a book:  Keum Boo on Silver by Celie Fago.  Cool Tools carries this book.  Don’t buy it on Amazon – completely overpriced!  24k Gold Leaf on Amazon (I am surprised at this price!)  They say it is real 24K – I have not used this brand for Keum Boo.  There are 15 sheets.  Rio Grande carries 23k gold leaf (25 sheets) and they cost 64.00 as of 4/17/21.


  GranulationHide Glue on Amazon. You can find granules at jewelry supply stores. The hide glue is mixed with water and used as an adherent for the granules.

  Mokume Gane – you can make your own – LOTS of work, or purchase Mokume from Reactive Metals or Here’s a video on making Mokume Gane wire.


  Reticulation – both silver and copper w/silver.  You can buy special silver for reticulation.  It is a blend of 80% fine silver and 20% copper or you can depletion gild (often called “bringing up the silver”) sterling silver. Rio Grande sells reticulation silver sheet.

My video on fusing and reticulating silver over copper is on YouTube.

Water Casting

Water Casting. A bucket of water and some molten silver is all it takes. Try adjusting the height, from which you pour, adding ice, how fast you pour, etc. Experiment. Fuse or solder the cups and branches you create.

My video on water casting.


Flex Shaft Tools

  Bristle discsPepeTools.   Amazon. Dedeco knife-edge Amazon

 Engraving tool,   Lion Punch Forge: PepeTools. . 

  Hammer handpiece with various bits at  PepeTools.  Also on Amazon.  

  Mizzy Wheels. They usually come in only one grit, but many sizes.  At Amazon.   Jewelry supply shops also sell them.

  Polishing pins. Amazon, Dedeco. (2mm), Amazon (3mm).   Other jewelry suppliers carry these.

Sanding drums on Amazon.  They create a finish similar to the Mizzy wheel and the Spikey wheels.

  Sanding discs (with center metal)Amazon. Amazon mandrels.  Otto Frei:  Otto Frei mandrels:

  Sanding discs (without center metal).  Amazon.  Otto Frei:  search for “3M PSA Disc 3/4″ Microfin” .


  Satin finish wheels (scrubbie wheels).  100 pack of varying grits on Amazon: or pack of 50:

  Silicone wheels, points, and barrels.  Kit on Amazon:  Ottotech by EVE, Otto Frei:  Dedeco kit at Rio Grande:

  Spikey Wheels, Frosting Brushes, Texturing Brushes, Texturing Wheels. Texturing wheels at Otto Frei:  Also, type in “Texturing Brush” at Rio Grande (their links are just too long, sorry). 


  FoldForming – Great technique invented by Charles Lewton-Brain.  Get the book. (See below for the link). Involves a lot of hammering but, it is so worth the effort!

Gesso & colored pencils

 Gesso at Amazon. 

  Colored Pencils at Amazon. 

Gritty, Scratchy Stuff

  Pumice powder and your finger or a toothbrush cleans the metal AND leaves a matte finish.  Make a slurry and rub it into the metal at Amazon.   Also, try Bon Ami cleanser at Amazon.  

   Sandpaper, various grits at Amazon.

  Steel Wool – Various levels of abrasive.  Abrasives numbered from 0000 (very fine)  to 4 (extra coarse}.  Obviously, the rougher the wool, the more scratch on your sheet at Amazon



Ball & Cross Pein Hammers of various types.  PepeTools:  Starter Fretz hammer setAmazon: Wubbers brand, other brandsFretz hammer set on Amazon.  


Texture hammers 

Grid & Grooved heads

Hammers with textured heads.  Texture inserts for Fretz hammer, at PepeTools.  Fretz Double-Ended Insert Hammer at PepeTools. 

Hydraulic Press & Rolling Mill – The Big Guns

  Hydraulic press pattern/texture platesPotter USA Texture Plates. Rio Grande search:  “Bonny Doon Pattern Plates” These can also be used in the rolling mill but afterward you can’t use them in the press”.   Impression or Precision dies – hydraulic press.   Potter USA. Rolling mills for use with paper, laser-cut paper,  metal plates, fabric, dried plants, etc. PepeTools.   Contenti sells laser-cut paper for the mill as do some sellers on Etsy.


a (Dot Inlay).   Inlay – wire or sheet or stone.  Here’s an article from Ganoksin on inlay.   The 2 basic concepts are 1. You need to insert a softer metal into a harder metal and 2. You want the metals to be of different colors or have one with the ability to take on a patina while the other metal doesn’t.  Examples:  Fine Silver or high-karat gold into steel. Fine silver into brass or bronze. 


  Patinas – various colors, black, blues, browns, greens, reds, oranges – even white at Amazon. Jax black for brass, bronze, and copper at Jax Chemical.  Check out Sculpt Nouveau.  See the book: Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers & Metalsmiths.


  Sandblasting. Amazon Mini Sandblaster.  You need a compressor too that can generate 30psi-50psi. 


Letter Stamps

Metal stamps, letter stamps at Amazon.  

  Pattern Stamps

Pattern Stamps.

Amazon has a pretty good variety of stamps.  Rings & Things and Beaducation carries them as does Romazone.  Just Goggle jewelry pattern stamps or something similar.

Tumbling & Tumbling Medium

  Tumbler with a tumbling medium.  I tried this and it worked really well.  I taped off the parts that I didn’t want to be affected by the medium.  Try different media: ceramic or plastic, other objects.  I tried using sand (fine) but it didn’t work.  Maybe it needed to be tumbled longer perhaps coarser sand might have worked.  Try gravel!  I haven’t but, it could work!  I use a medium grit, plastic medium.     I just tumbled it dry.   

My videos to watch

Coloring Metal

Corrugation:  Patterning Metal with a Toothpaste Squeezer. 

Electrical Etching.


Enamel: Easy Enamel Cabochons.

Enamel: Easy Enamel Cabochons.

Fusing silver, silver dust, reticulation – Soldering Intensive.

Fusing Silver & Reticulation on Copper.

How to Finish Jewelry.

How to Use a Rolling Mill

Making Chasing & Repousse Tools – Part 1.

Making Chasing & Repousse Tools – Part 2.

Metal Patinas.

Red Patinas for Copper

Sanding (Part 2) Using Sanding Discs

Torch-Fired Gold – the Short Version

Water Casting

Other People’s Videos

Many of my project and how-to videos contain demonstrations of the techniques listed above and more.

Look for “Playlists” on my YouTube channel and click view “All Playlists” to find more related videos.

Books on Metal Finishes

  • Mokume Gane: A Comprehensive Study by Steve Midgett. Free online book: The book appears to be out of print.  If you find a copy – grab it!
  • Chasing and Repousse: Methods Ancient and Modern by Nancy Megan Corwin. Amazon: Published 2009.
  • Chasing:  Ancient Metalworking Technique With Modern Applications by Marcia Lewis.  Amazon:  Published 1994.
  • Foldforming by Charles Lewton-Brain. Amazon:
  • Metal Corrugation: Surface Embellishment and Element Formation for the Metalsmith by Patricia McAleer. Rio Grande: this book NOW!  It must be out of print.  A very difficult to find book and most sellers are out of stock!  2 new books left at $596.02!!!   $45.00 to $185.00 USED on Amazon!  Published 2002.
  • Hydraulic Die Forming for Jewelers & Metalsmiths by Susan Kingsley.  Amazon:  Another book that might disappear! – printed 2006. 
  • Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry:  A Workshop in Painting with Fire by Barbara Lewis. Amazon (only one left in stock.  There is a Kindle version): Published 2011. 
  • The Art of Enameling:  Techniques, Projects, Inspiration by Linda Darty. Amazon:  Published 2006. 
  • Metals Technic:  A Collection of Techniques for Metalsmiths, Edited by Tim McCreight. Amazon – on Kindle or Used: Published 2014.
  • The Jeweler’s Directory of Decorative Finishes:  From Enameling and Engraving to Inlay and Granulation by Jinks McGrath. Amazon: Published 2005.  
  • Polishing and Finishing for Jewellers and Silversmiths by Stephen M Goldsmith. Amazon: Published 2019.
  • Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers & Metalsmiths by Matthew Runfola. Amazon:  Published 2014.
  • The Art of Stamping by Matthieu Cheminée. Amazon: Published 2019.  

A lot of these specialty books appear to be going out of print.  They are excellent books and who knows if they will be replaced? 

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